Labour Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September. The day was commemorated to give workers a chance to campaign for better working conditions and pay. The origins of Labour Day can be traced back to April 15, 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organised Canada’s first significant demonstration for worker’s rights. The aim of the demonstration was to release the 24 leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union who were imprisoned for striking to campaign for a nine-hour working day. During that time, trade unions were still illegal and striking was seen as a criminal conspiracy to disrupt trade. Despite this, the Toronto Trades Assembly was already a significant organisation and encouraged workers to form trade unions, mediated in disputes between employers and employees and signalled the mistreatment of workers.
There was enormous public support for the parade and the authorities could no longer deny the important role that the trade unions had to play in the emerging Canadian society. A few months later, a similar parade was organized in Ottawa and passed the house of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John Macdonald. Later in the day, he appeared before the gathering and promised to repeal all Canadian laws against trade unions. This happened in the same year and eventually led to the founding of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1883.
Labour Day was originally celebrated in the Spring season, but it was moved to the Fall after 1894. A similar holiday, Labour Day is held on the same day in the United States Many and many other countries have a holiday to celebrate workers’ rights on May 1st.
Canadian trade unions are proud that this holiday was inspired by their efforts to improve workers’ rights.
With inputs from